Writing can be a lonely business.
But, it’s even worse if you’ve lost your motivation to get started.
When I started writing, I often had no idea what I was doing. I’d open up a blank document and start with a character or an idea and hope for the best. Nothing flowed. Nothing felt easy.
Soon enough, I’d abandon that manuscript and start with another.
I didn’t realise it, but what I needed was a writing coach. Someone to help me set goals, motivate me to get out there and do, and show me where I was going wrong (this one particularly).
That’s why I’m delighted to announce that I have created Coach-in-a-Box.This is a three month writing coaching option that will help you reach your writing goals.
There are two Coach-in-a-Box options: Motivate Me and Ready, Set, Go!
Motivate Me is for those who need a cheerleader, a whipcracker, someone who has your back.
Ready, Set, Go!is more structured with detailed feedback sessions on your writing. That’s right - find out what’s not working as you write.
Want to know more? Give me a shout.
EL James’s latest, The Mister, landed and not surprisingly, is doing exceptionally well.
What’s this got to do with craft? Plenty.
To most writers, EL James’s work is everything you’re taught not to do. And yet, it still sells. The theory is that it’s a ‘great story.’ What does ‘good’ writing matter when it’s a ‘great story’?
First up, last time I checked, there is only one EL James. One writer making a shit ton of cash on horrible writing and a great story. Every other writer? They’re getting by (or not) on good writing AND a great story. BOTH.
The greatest story in the world manhandled by an amateur will turn out lukewarm at best. Will you get a publishing contract out of it? Probably, not. EL James is a combination of factors: a massive online following of her Twilight fanfic, the emergence of erotica as ‘en vogue’, and the trend for BDSM. Do you see ‘great story’ or ‘good writing’ in that combination? I don’t.
Where does that leave the thousands of writers out there who want to break into the writing market? Back with their tools, their craft. Writing up great stories, with fabulous writing that makes it difficult for publishers, agents, and readers to say ’no’.
There will always be the next EL James, one outlier soaring stratospherically at the right time, in the right space, when Jupiter aligned with Mars or the the prophesised one returned with her three dragons and Knight Friendzone. Would we love to be this person? Of course, we would.
But, in case it doesn’t, you can still have a career as a writer, by improving your craft to better tell great stories.
What is erotica? Is it different from erotic romance?
My first novel was listed under erotic romance. A mistake, surely? There was only one sex scene that didn’t go into too much detail. No, my publisher insisted, it’s erotic. She was wrong.
Erotic does not equal one sex scene. So, what does it mean?
Firstly, that anyone picking up said novel was horribly disappointed. I recently read a submission that promised FLAMES. I got to halfway and had yet to encounter anything more a damp squib. One sex scene. One that had been rudely interrupted. That was it. On the heat-o-meter that registered as a 1, a low heat, certainly not erotica.
Why would you do that to your reader? If they’re expecting heat, the book better deliver.
This rather points to attitudes about sex, rather than writing. (If you’re all a flutter about sex in a book, then there’ll be plenty books out there that won’t be for you, not only romance, just saying)
A romance doesn’t need to have a sex scene. It can be sweet. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to put on your big girl panties and leave that bedroom door open, know what’s expected from your reader.
Erotica is where the sexual journey of your character is depicted. This could mean that they discover their latent BDSM proclivities, question their sexuality, or embark on a torrid affair with the milkman that makes them realise they want something more in their life. Erotica does not have to have a HEA. My novel, Watched,is about a woman embracing her sexual self. Lots of people weren’t happy with the ending because it wasn’t the HEA they were expecting, but the novel wasn’t about the romance. It was about my character and her sexual exploration.
This doesn’t have to mean that there’s a sex scene every chapter, but if it’s about a character’s sexual journey, the focus will be on sex. A great example of this is Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren. It’s incredibly erotic but with only a few sex scenes. Erotica still engages with the character’s emotions as they undergo their journey – that’s what separates it from merely physically arousing material, or porn.
If your novel is sex scene after sex scene after sex scene with no emotional involvement, you’ve written porn.
Erotic romance is a little different. This is about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. These two didn’t mean to fall in love while they were doing their thang, but they did. The Warden’s Possessionhas Cait start a steamy romance with Duke in some seedy nightclub. No prizes for guessing what happens next as lurve takes over where lust laid the foundation.
HIGH HEAT LEVELS
Then there are books with high heat levels. Couples that are ‘romancing’ who get it on with the bedroom door open (that means graphic scenes with detail). If your book has one such scene, it’s a medium to low heat, depending on the amount of detail. If it has none, or the scenes fade to black, it’s sweet.
What you choose to write, is up to you. Just make sure it’s categorized correctly so as not to get yourself a one-star read from either a disappointed or irate reader (or both).
Around ten years ago (maybe less), self-publishing took off in a huge way. Writers like Amanda Hocking became millionaires overnight as the market hoovered up the free books that flooded the market.
With the advent of the Kindle, publishing changed. You could download work immediately, and with Amazon KDP anyone could publish their work. Did it matter if the work was well-edited or well-written? No, not really. Actually, hang on, yes. Chuck Wendig christened the self-pub market as a ‘shit volcano’. Crappy, badly formatted books with half-formed characters and underdone plots piled up.
Where did this leave self-publishing?
Fast forward a few years...Today’s self-publishers, or indie publishers as they’re now known, are bona fide writers with talent and drive to boot. The behind-the-scenes work that traditional publishers offer - editor, cover designer, marketer - are hired by Indies to ensure a great product out to market. We even have writers CHOOSING the self-pub route.
The lines have blurred plenty in those intervening years, and with it is the rise of the writerpreneur. (If you want to know more about the indie/traditional publishing routes, sign up for #ROSACon2019 where I’ll take you through the ins and outs).
But, to return to my original question... does a self-published book qualify as published? Yes. Yes, of course it does. Self-publishing is a viable, and usually far more lucrative route than traditional publishing. But either way, you have made your book/s available for sale. You have sold them on a public marketplace. You have offered them to book bloggers and review sites for review. You have put together an author website to increase your visibility and sell more books.
There are authors I know who have never been anything other than an indie author - they are well-known, well-loved and well-read. They are published, regardless of with whom they have entered the contract.
To suggest that a book that was self-published is not a published book points towards something else. A belief in ’standards’ or ‘gatekeeping’ to ensure quality control, perhaps? If your book isn’t ready, don’t put it up for sale. Do the work. There’s no harm in taking your time, but there is in rushing.
Something to ponder: In romance, Indies are leading the pack, dominating the market.
HEA ROMANCE WRITING
Everything you need to know to write your own happily ever after.